English Language and Literature ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-17-2020


This dissertation examines the symbol of an art object which represents a corpse or dead person’s identity, what I call the abject d’art, as it appears in fin de siècle supernatural fiction by Vernon Lee (Violet Paget) to identify late Victorian notions of Kristevan abjection, avant la lettre. Lee’s aesthetic philosophy informs her use of the abject d’art, especially her examination of the empathetic process as part of aesthetics to explain how individuals represent and respond to objects mentally and emotionally. Through her analysis of empathy, Lee identifies the ego as a fallible moderator of an individual’s responses and judgments towards the external world. Lee’s fiction uses the abject d’art to expose how ego-driven perception results in abusive representations of women and the laboring classes. This project identifies expressions of the abject d’art in Lee’s fiction, tracing her critique of determinism, religion, marriage, and social injustice as sources of abjection.

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Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Gail Houston

Second Committee Member

Dr. Aeron Haynie

Third Committee Member

Dr. Sarah Townsend

Fourth Committee Member

Dr. Ann Murphy




Phantom Lover, Amour Dure, ghost, scapegoat, Doll, reader response

Document Type